Deobfuscate/Decode Files or Information

Adversaries may use Obfuscated Files or Information to hide artifacts of an intrusion from analysis. They may require separate mechanisms to decode or deobfuscate that information depending on how they intend to use it. Methods for doing that include built-in functionality of malware or by using utilities present on the system.

One such example is use of certutil to decode a remote access tool portable executable file that has been hidden inside a certificate file. [1] Another example is using the Windows copy /b command to reassemble binary fragments into a malicious payload. [2]

Sometimes a user's action may be required to open it for deobfuscation or decryption as part of User Execution. The user may also be required to input a password to open a password protected compressed/encrypted file that was provided by the adversary. [3]

ID: T1140
Sub-techniques:  No sub-techniques
Tactic: Defense Evasion
Platforms: Linux, Windows, macOS
Permissions Required: User
Data Sources: File monitoring, Process command-line parameters, Process monitoring
Defense Bypassed: Anti-virus, Host intrusion prevention systems, Network intrusion detection system, Signature-based detection
Contributors: Matthew Demaske, Adaptforward; Red Canary
Version: 1.1
Created: 14 December 2017
Last Modified: 09 July 2020

Procedure Examples

Name Description
ABK

ABK has the ability to decrypt AES encrypted payloads.[4]

Agent Tesla

Agent Tesla has the ability to decrypt strings encrypted with the Rijndael symmetric encryption algorithm.[5]

APT19

An APT19 HTTP malware variant decrypts strings using single-byte XOR keys.[6]

APT28

An APT28 macro uses the command certutil -decode to decode contents of a .txt file storing the base64 encoded payload.[7][8]

Aria-body

Aria-body has the ability to decrypt the loader configuration and payload DLL.[9]

Astaroth

Astaroth uses a fromCharCode() deobfuscation method to avoid explicitly writing execution commands and to hide its code. [10]

AuditCred

AuditCred uses XOR and RC4 to perform decryption on the code functions.[11]

Avenger

Avenger has the ability to decrypt files downloaded from C2.[4]

Azorult

Azorult uses an XOR key to decrypt content and uses Base64 to decode the C2 address.[12][13]

BackConfig

BackConfig has used a custom routine to decrypt strings.[14]

Bankshot

Bankshot decodes embedded XOR strings.[15]

BBK

BBK has the ability to decrypt AES encrypted payloads.[4]

BBSRAT

BBSRAT uses Expand to decompress a CAB file into executable content.[16]

Bisonal

Bisonal decodes strings in the malware using XOR and RC4.[17]

BOOSTWRITE

BOOSTWRITE has used a a 32-byte long multi-XOR key to decode data inside its payload.[18]

BRONZE BUTLER

BRONZE BUTLER downloads encoded payloads and decodes them on the victim.[19]

Bundlore

Bundlore has used openssl to decrypt AES encrypted payload data. Bundlore has also used base64 and RC4 with a hardcoded key to deobfuscate data.[20]

Carbon

Carbon decrypts task and configuration files for execution.[21]

Cardinal RAT

Cardinal RAT decodes many of its artifacts and is decrypted (AES-128) after being downloaded.[22]

certutil

certutil has been used to decode binaries hidden inside certificate files as Base64 information.[1]

CoinTicker

CoinTicker decodes the initially-downloaded hidden encoded file using OpenSSL.[23]

ComRAT

ComRAT has used unique per machine passwords to decrypt the orchestrator payload and a hardcoded XOR key to decrypt its communications module. ComRAT has also used a unique password to decrypt the file used for its hidden file system.[24]

CookieMiner

CookieMiner has used Google Chrome's decryption and extraction operations.[25]

Darkhotel

Darkhotel has decrypted strings and imports using RC4 during execution.[26]

DDKONG

DDKONG decodes an embedded configuration using XOR.[27]

Denis

Denis will decrypt important strings used for C&C communication.[28]

Drovorub

Drovorub has de-obsfuscated XOR encrypted payloads in WebSocket messages.[29]

Dyre

Dyre decrypts resources needed for targeting the victim.[30][31]

Expand

Expand can be used to decompress a local or remote CAB file into an executable.[32]

FatDuke

FatDuke can decrypt AES encrypted C2 communications.[33]

Final1stspy

Final1stspy uses Python code to deobfuscate base64-encoded strings.[34]

FinFisher

FinFisher extracts and decrypts stage 3 malware, which is stored in encrypted resources.[35][36]

Frankenstein

Frankenstein has deobfuscated base64-encoded commands following the execution of a malicious script, which revealed a small script designed to obtain an additional payload.[37]

Gamaredon Group

Gamaredon Group tools decrypted additional payloads from the C2. Gamaredon Group has also decoded base64-encoded source code of a downloader.[38][39]

gh0st RAT

gh0st RAT has decrypted and loaded the gh0st RAT DLL into memory, once the initial dropper executable is launched.[40]

Goopy

Goopy has used a polymorphic decryptor to decrypt itself at runtime.[28]

Gorgon Group

Gorgon Group malware can decode contents from a payload that was Base64 encoded and write the contents to a file.[41]

Hancitor

Hancitor has decoded Base64 encoded URLs to insert a recipient’s name into the filename of the Word document. Hancitor has also extracted executables from ZIP files.[42][43]

HiddenWasp

HiddenWasp uses a cipher to implement a decoding function.[44]

Honeybee

Honeybee drops a Word file containing a Base64-encoded file in it that is read, decoded, and dropped to the disk by the macro.[45]

Imminent Monitor

Imminent Monitor has decoded malware components that are then dropped to the system.[46]

InvisiMole

InvisiMole can decrypt, unpack and load a DLL from its resources, or from blobs encrypted with Data Protection API, two-key triple DES, and variations of the XOR cipher.[47][48]

ISMInjector

ISMInjector uses the certutil command to decode a payload file.[49]

Kessel

Kessel has decrypted the binary's configuration once the main function was launched.[50]

KONNI

KONNI has used certutil to download and decode base64 encoded strings.[51]

Kwampirs

Kwampirs decrypts and extracts a copy of its main DLL payload when executing.[52]

Leviathan

Leviathan has used a DLL known as SeDll to decrypt and execute other JavaScript backdoors.[53]

LightNeuron

LightNeuron has used AES and XOR to decrypt configuration files and commands.[54]

Machete

Machete’s downloaded data is decrypted using AES.[55]

menuPass

menuPass has used certutil in a macro to decode base64-encoded content contained in a dropper document attached to an email. The group has also used certutil -decode to decode files on the victim’s machine when dropping UPPERCUT.[56][57]

MESSAGETAP

After checking for the existence of two files, keyword_parm.txt and parm.txt, MESSAGETAP XOR decodes and read the contents of the files. [58]

Metamorfo

Upon execution, Metamorfo has unzipped itself after being downloaded to the system.[59][60]

MirageFox

MirageFox has a function for decrypting data containing C2 configuration information.[61]

Molerats

Molerats decompresses ZIP files once on the victim machine.[62]

More_eggs

More_eggs will decode malware components that are then dropped to the system.[63]

MuddyWater

MuddyWater decoded base64-encoded PowerShell commands using a VBS file.[64][65][66]

Netwalker

Netwalker's PowerShell script can decode and decrypt multiple layers of obfuscation, leading to the Netwalker DLL being loaded into memory.[67]

NOKKI

NOKKI uses a unique, custom de-obfuscation technique.[68]

OilRig

A OilRig macro has run a PowerShell command to decode file contents. OilRig has also used certutil to decode base64-encoded files on victims.[69][49][70]

Okrum

Okrum's loader can decrypt the backdoor code, embedded within the loader or within a legitimate PNG file. A custom XOR cipher or RC4 is used for decryption.[71]

OnionDuke

OnionDuke can use a custom decryption algorithm to decrypt strings.[33]

OopsIE

OopsIE concatenates then decompresses multiple resources to load an embedded .Net Framework assembly.[70]

OSX/Shlayer

OSX/Shlayer can base64-decode and AES-decrypt downloaded payloads.[72]

Pillowmint

Pillowmint has been decompressed by included shellcode prior to being launched.[73]

PipeMon

PipeMon can decrypt password-protected executables.[74]

PlugX

PlugX decompresses and decrypts itself using the Microsoft API call RtlDecompressBuffer.[75]

PolyglotDuke

PolyglotDuke can use a custom algorithm to decrypt strings used by the malware.[33]

POWERSTATS

POWERSTATS can deobfuscate the main backdoor code.[66]

Proton

Proton uses an encrypted file to store commands and configuration values.[76]

PUNCHBUGGY

PUNCHBUGGY has used PowerShell to decode base64-encoded assembly.[77]

QUADAGENT

QUADAGENT uses AES and a preshared key to decrypt the custom Base64 routine used to encode strings and scripts.[78]

Ramsay

Ramsay can extract its agent from the body of a malicious document.[79]

RDAT

RDAT can deobfuscate the base64-encoded and AES-encrypted files downloaded from the C2 server.[80]

RegDuke

RegDuke can decrypt strings with a key either stored in the Registry or hardcoded in the code.[33]

Remexi

Remexi decrypts the configuration data using XOR with 25-character keys.[81]

REvil

REvil can decode encrypted strings to enable execution of commands and payloads.[82][83][84][85][86][87]

RGDoor

RGDoor decodes Base64 strings and decrypts strings using a custom XOR algorithm.[88]

Rising Sun

Rising Sun decrypted itself using a single-byte XOR scheme. Additionally, Rising Sun can decrypt its configuration data at runtime.[89]

Rocke

Rocke has extracted tar.gz files after downloading them from a C2 server.[90]

RogueRobin

RogueRobin decodes an embedded executable using base64 and decompresses it.[91]

Sandworm Team

Sandworm Team's VBS backdoor can decode Base64-encoded data and save it to the %TEMP% folder. The group also decrypted received information using the Triple DES algorithm and decompresses it using GZip.[92][93]

SDBot

SDBot has the ability to decrypt and decompress its payload to enable code execution.[94][95]

Shamoon

Shamoon decrypts ciphertext using an XOR cipher and a base64-encoded string.[96]

ShimRat

ShimRat has decompressed its core DLL using shellcode once an impersonated antivirus component was running on a system.[97]

Skidmap

Skidmap has the ability to download, unpack, and decrypt tar.gz files .[98]

Smoke Loader

Smoke Loader deobfuscates its code.[99]

SoreFang

SoreFang can decode and decrypt exfiltrated data sent to C2.[100]

SQLRat

SQLRat has scripts that are responsible for deobfuscating additional scripts.[101]

Starloader

Starloader decrypts and executes shellcode from a file called Stars.jps.[102]

Threat Group-3390

During execution, Threat Group-3390 malware deobfuscates and decompresses code that was encoded with Metasploit’s shikata_ga_nai encoder as well as compressed with LZNT1 compression.[103]

TrickBot

TrickBot decodes the configuration data and modules.[104][105]

Tropic Trooper

Tropic Trooper used shellcode with an XOR algorithm to decrypt a payload. Tropic Trooper also decrypted image files which contained a payload.[106][107]

TSCookie

TSCookie has the ability to decrypt, load, and execute a DLL and its resources.[108]

Turla

Turla has used a custom decryption routine, which pulls key and salt values from other artifacts such as a WMI filter or PowerShell Profile, to decode encrypted PowerShell payloads.[109]

TYPEFRAME

One TYPEFRAME variant decrypts an archive using an RC4 key, then decompresses and installs the decrypted malicious DLL module. Another variant decodes the embedded file by XORing it with the value "0x35".[110]

Ursnif

Ursnif has used crypto key information stored in the Registry to decrypt Tor clients dropped to disk.[111]

Valak

Valak has the ability to decode and decrypt downloaded files.[112][113]

VERMIN

VERMIN decrypts code, strings, and commands to use once it's on the victim's machine.[114]

Volgmer

Volgmer deobfuscates its strings and APIs once its executed.[115]

WellMail

WellMail can decompress scripts received from C2.[116]

WellMess

WellMess can decode and decrypt data received from C2.[117][118][119]

WindTail

WindTail has the ability to decrypt strings using hard-coded AES keys.[120]

Winnti for Linux

Winnti for Linux has decoded XOR encoded strings holding its configuration upon execution.[121]

WIRTE

WIRTE has decoded a base64 encoded document which was embedded in a VBS script.[122]

YAHOYAH

YAHOYAH decrypts downloaded files before execution.[123]

Zebrocy

Zebrocy decodes its secondary payload and writes it to the victim’s machine. Zebrocy also uses AES and XOR to decrypt strings and payloads.[124][125]

ZeroT

ZeroT shellcode decrypts and decompresses its RC4-encrypted payload.[126]

Zeus Panda

Zeus Panda decrypts strings in the code during the execution process.[127]

Mitigations

This type of attack technique cannot be easily mitigated with preventive controls since it is based on the abuse of system features.

Detection

Detecting the action of deobfuscating or decoding files or information may be difficult depending on the implementation. If the functionality is contained within malware and uses the Windows API, then attempting to detect malicious behavior before or after the action may yield better results than attempting to perform analysis on loaded libraries or API calls. If scripts are used, then collecting the scripts for analysis may be necessary. Perform process and command-line monitoring to detect potentially malicious behavior related to scripts and system utilities such as certutil.

Monitor the execution file paths and command-line arguments for common archive file applications and extensions, such as those for Zip and RAR archive tools, and correlate with other suspicious behavior to reduce false positives from normal user and administrator behavior.

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